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Suspect in Forestville triple homicide could face death penalty

Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 5:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 7:04 a.m.

The first of three suspects in last month's triple homicide near Forestville was charged Tuesday with being the shooter in a special-circumstances murder case that could bring him the death penalty if he is convicted.

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Mark William Cappello

Mobile County Sheriff

Mark William Cappello, 46, of Central City, Colo., made his first court appearance since his extradition from Alabama, where he was arrested Feb. 14.

Prosecutors allege that Cappello gunned down three men during a Feb. 5 marijuana deal in a rural home on Ross Station Road. He is charged with three counts of murder with special circumstances for allegedly lying in wait, killing for financial gain, committing the crimes in the course of a burglary and the slayings of multiple victims.

Other allegations include personal use of a .45-caliber pistol, burglary and conspiracy to transport marijuana.

All of the special circumstances could be used as grounds to seek the death sentence, prosecutor Traci Carrillo said.

"Based on the nature and circumstances of the case, it's death-eligible," Carrillo said after the hearing.

A decision on whether to seek death would be made by District Attorney Jill Ravitch as legal proceedings unfold, Carrillo said. Ravitch has not sought the death penalty in any murder case since taking office in 2011.

The last Sonoma County defendant sent to Death Row was Robert Scully, who was convicted of the 1995 shotgun slaying of Deputy Frank Trejo.

Cappello glanced into the courtroom gallery but said nothing as his case was called by Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite. The goateed man stood in a blue jail uniform, his hands shackled at his waist, before being led away by deputies.

His alleged accomplices, Denver-area resident Odin Leonard Dwyer, 38, and his father, Francis R. Dwyer, 65, of New Mexico, were arrested in their home states and are awaiting transport.

The younger Dwyer could make a first court appearance Thursday. It was unknown when the elder man would arrive.

All three are being held in the killings of Sebastopol native Raleigh Butler, 24; Todd Klarkowski, 42, of Boulder, Colo.; and Richard Lewin, 46, of Huntington, N.Y.

Sheriff's detectives believe Klarkowski and Lewin were partners in the interstate marijuana trade. Klarkowski brought Cappello in on the deal, investigators said.

Cappello is suspected of involving his friend, Odin Dwyer. Authorities said surveillance camera videos from gas stations in Nevada and Wyoming indicate Dwyer and his father traveled west to California with Cappello in the days leading up to the killings.

Both Dwyers were arrested on suspicion of murder.

Cappello was tracked to the Gulf Coast after the slayings and was arrested during a traffic stop on Interstate 10 in Mobile, Ala.

Cappello did not admit or deny the charges. His lawyer, Michael Meehan, sought more time to review the allegations and receive any evidence.

The next hearing for Cappello was set for Tuesday morning before Judge Gary Medvigy. The Dwyers are expected to appear before Thistlethwaite before being transferred to the other judge.

Cappello's first appearance was attended by Butler's friends and family. They declined to comment through their attorney.

Also in the gallery were detectives from the Sheriff's Office, who have been working long hours since the slayings. They developed evidence that the three victims came to town to purchase a large amount of marijuana for a substantial sum of money.

Some of the six dined together at a Sebastopol restaurant the night before meeting at a house outside Forestville where Butler's mother lived. She was out of town at the time.

But the would-be pot deal erupted in violence. The three victims were found dead in a bedroom and the suspects fled to other states, detectives said.

Cappello's Colorado home was raided the night before he was arrested in Alabama. Authorities pulled him over for a traffic violation and found he was wanted for murder in California.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com.

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